Tom Ainsworth,1 Heather Baid,1 Ryan Woodard,1 Dipak Sarker,1 Charis Nathan,1 Mahmood Bhutta,2,3 Patricia McCready,4 Oliver Slaughter,5 and Jennifer Drake5
University of Brighton (1) | Brighton and Sussex Medical School (2) | University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust (3) | Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust (4) | Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust (5)
Possibilities and practices for sustainable healthcare
The healthcare sector produces substantial amounts of clinical and non-clinical waste, which creates a significant financial cost and environmental footprint to safely dispose of and manage the waste, in addition to sustainability implications for producing, transporting and using healthcare products. This participatory research project is a multi-partner collaboration between a university and three healthcare organisations to explore possibilities and identify new practices to reduce healthcare waste for improved sustainability. The multi-disciplinary research team includes design, materials science, waste, sustainability and healthcare professionals, therefore providing a range of perspectives. A mixed methods approach will use focus groups with healthcare staff and analysis of procurement data to identify highly consumed items and those with a high level of waste, as well as explore the systemic challenges causing the waste. For instance, waste resulting from over-packaging, pre-packaged items containing unnecessary components, systemic inefficiencies and poor waste management practices. Inventories will be conducted of shortlisted items to describe their lifecycle, weight, associated packaging and composition. This evaluation will include a detailed analysis of materials to identify the types of plastic and makeup of composite materials and to better understand their function, recyclability, and reusability. Recommendations for sustainable alternatives and systemic redesign will be fed back to the three participating healthcare organisations in a follow-up workshop. This work-in-progress presentation to the RSD11 conference will share key findings from the design component of the project as a report of the ongoing research. The research team will be responsive to comments received during the conference presentation to further enhance the analysis of how systemic design can contribute to reducing healthcare waste.
KEYWORDS: Waste, healthcare, systemic design, sustainability, environmental footprint